On Wednesday’s edition of PBS NewsHour, the program took a look at Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, the 21-year old blues guitarist who has quickly made a name for himself with his vintage style. In addition to the profile of Ingram’s life and work, he also performed his song “Before I’m Old” from the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MI.
Framed within the context of the generational torch of the blues, Ingram is presented as an oddity as well as a promising beacon for the future. While in some ways the heyday of blues giants like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and B.B. King have passed, the PBS team presents Ingram as part of the next wave of blues musicians to keep the tradition alive.
Though Ingram has been in the public eye since his early teens due to his remarkable skill, the NewsHour segment presents a more personal side of the artist not often seen from the stage. At the age of 15, Ingram performed at the White House when the Delta Blues Museum received an Arts and Humanities Award. Yet, in the intervening six years, his musical style has changed with age.
Around that time, I was listening to a lot of Eric Johnson, and a lot of Eric Gales, and a lot of fast, like, blues, shreddy type of things. And I just felt everything that I played had to be like 1,000 miles a minute. So, yes, these days, I have incorporated more feel and more slowness in my solos. But I still you know try to get the youthfulness and attack and the speed of notes every night then.
The profile also examined the way that Ingram himself lived the blues, with him noting, “I wasn’t in a troubled childhood, but I did have my share of troubles, you know.”
This was a humble way of brushing off the fact that, after his parents divorced when he was young, Ingram and his mother were briefly homeless. But through this dark period of his life, he was able to translate that into the emotion that fuels his evocative music, “And that’s actually when I started to — I started to dig, like, a little bit more deeper into the blues and guitar.”
Along his path to fame, Ingram also received help from a well known face in Buddy Guy. One of the last remaining icons of early electric blues, Guy stepped in to help launch Ingram’s career by producing—and funding—his debut album, which has since gone on to earn a Grammy nomination as well as five of this year’s American Blues Awards, including album of the year.
Ingram makes no attempt to sidestep the positive effect that Guy has personally had on his career. A beautifully telling moment came earlier this year at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago, when Ingram ran into technical difficulties while sharing the stage with the blues stalwart. Mid-solo, the sound went out of Ingram’s guitar and, without hesitation, Guy walked over and handed over his own axe to the young musician and could be heard saying, “here, take mine” on a fan-shot video. As Guy handed over his instrument, one could see the torch passed from one generation to the next.
After the profile, Kingfish did what he does best with a performance of his original tune, “Before I’m Old”. In light of what audiences just learned about the budding bluesman, it may appear that Ingram is one of the few 21-year olds in a hurry to get old. Between his affinity for the music of the Delta Blues and preference to hanging around elderly bluesmen rather than his own peers, despite whatever his Earthly years—Ingram is an old soul.
Watch the PBS NewsHour profile of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram below, as well as his performance of “Before I’m Old” from the Delta Blues Museum.
PBS NewsHour – Mississippi’s Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram On A Blues Revival
[Video: PBS NewsHour]
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – “Before I’m Old”